FUTURE FACTS – FROM THINK LINKS
DID YOU KNOW THAT–
- The federal government will treat Google’s driverless car system as a legal driver.
- Australian scientists will soon begin trials for a fully implantable bionic eye.
- Fake luxury goods stand alongside pharmaceuticals as one of the primary drivers of spam.
- 3D mapping of entire buildings can now be done with an app for mobile devices.
by John L. Petersen
Master Mentalist Alain Nu Heads Spring Lineup for Transition Talks
Mind over matter expert Alain Nu is coming to Berkeley Springs on the 27th of February to teach a workshop on how you can use your mental abilities to change your life and the things around you. When he was here in October, Alain had almost 20 in the audience of 70 bending spoons with only their minds within ten minutes, much to the excitement of all who attended.
This time he comes not just to demonstrate, but to show you, step-by-step how that you can use your mind to affect your health, your life . . . and even your tableware.
He’ll share with you, more intimately, how YOU can learn to interact with YOUR OWN psychokinetic energy. You’ll explore how to:
- Tap into a Conscious Field
- Seemingly Affect the Laws of Chance
- Experiment on Your own Reality
- Heal yourself and others of Physical Pain and Stress
- Bend your own Spoon (!)
Come! It will be a great event. More information and reservations are at www.transitiontalks.org
In March, Joey Korn one of the world’s most extraordinary dowsers will be with us to also demonstrate, from another perspective, how tuning into the subtle messages that your body knows, you can learn things that seem impossible to know and change almost anything that is energetically based . . . which is everything!
In this jam-packed half-day seminar on the 19th of March, you’ll learn:
- How to dowse for detrimental energy fields related to underground water and energy fields that radiate from electronic appliances
- How to change these energies to be beneficial, using Joey’s Simple Blessing Process. You can even make EMFs beneficial to you!
- How to create ideal energy environments, within and around you, to help attract what you most desire into your life Joey will guide everyone through a blessing to balance each person’s Human Energy Pattern, and true magic will happen in the room. Joey’s work is not just about dowsing and energy; it’s about life.
Change your energies and change your life! More information and reservations are at www.transitiontalks.org
Lee Carroll and KRYON return to Berkeley Springs the 2nd of April for the fourth time. This always capacity crowd event features Lee’s latest assessment of what the future will hold and, of course, the latest communications from KRYON.
Over the past two decades, Kryon has given a great deal of profound insight about so many things! The profundity of the past information is still there, and amazingly current in this new energy. However, the news since 2012 is really new, and spans many subjects. This seminar is filled with “The Best of Kryon,” or from Lee’s standpoint, the most profound information from both past and present… and the future!
A summary such as this has never been given before. The subjects are still relevant, helpful and fascinating with varied topics like…
- New information about DNA
- The energy of the Akash and “Innate”
- How to create Synchronicity
- New paradigms for the Old Soul
You’ll hear “The Story of Easter Island,” which details Lee’s journey with the KRYON team to RAPA NUI (as the Indigenous call it). Lee reveals what Kryon said when he gave the details about how they moved the stones – complete with illustrations!
Register for KRYON here
Announcement: I’ve just received a confirmation that Penny Kelly will be with us on the 25th of June, and Gregg Braden will be returning again on the 29th of October. We’re working on an alternative date for Robert Coxon to make up for the cancellation of his date here last month . . . which just happened to collide with about 41” of snow that really shut down everything around here.
It will be a great Transition Talks year!
Federal Government Will Treat Google’s Driverless Car System as a Legal Driver – (ReCode – February 9, 2016)
Google’s robot just got its driver’s license. The federal agency that sets road rules — the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) — has released a letter to the Internet giant that supports its interpretation of a driverless system as legally adequate for roadways, a key victory for the critical initiative within Alphabet, Google’s parent company. Previously, the NHTSA only considered humans as drivers under law, because that’s how cars worked until Google came along. Now the agency has said it will consider Google’s self-driving system a driver, too. The letter came in response to a November petition from Chris Urmson, the director of Google’s self-driving car project. Urmson argued that regulators should treat Google’s homemade cars, built without a steering wheel and brakes, on par with human drivers. It’s been a persistent sticking point for the Google unit, particularly after California issued draft autonomous vehicle rules expressly prohibiting driverless cars.
The ‘Dangerous Science’ That Helped Convict a 14-year-old Girl’s Killer – (Washington Post – February 9, 2016)
There was no DNA — no blood, no hair, no saliva, no semen — to connect a Michigan man to 14-year-old April Millsap’s abduction, assault and brutal murder. In court, prosecutors pointed to crime-scene photos, saying the killing lasted about 10 minutes — during which Millsap shed tears and grabbed at leaves on the ground. Then, prosecutors used data from a fitness app on her cellphone and images from Google Earth to track her killer’s movements. Cellular evidence has become a controversial topic in trials. For years, investigators have used cellphone records to determine where and when perpetrators picked up a phone — an attempt to show whether they were near crime scenes. But experts have argued that using cellphone towers to trace someone’s whereabouts is risky since signals do not always tap the nearest tower. In addition, they say, tower ranges vary and overlap. “It’s not really junk science — it’s misinterpreted science,” according to Larry Daniel, a forensic expert from Raleigh, N.C. “It is useful and can be used. But in the hands of a novice, this is dangerous science.” Cataldo, the prosecutor, also showed jurors animation using GPS data from a fitness app on the teenager’s cellphone that was laid over a Google Earth map. It showed the phone moving fast from the crime scene, which Cataldo said proved defendant had taken the girl’s phone and fled.
Revolution in Physics as Gravitational Waves Seen for First Time – (New Scientist – February 11, 2016)
Gravitational waves, the booming echoes of massive objects moving all over the universe, have been detected for the first time by LIGO, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, which was recently upgraded. Gravitational waves are predicted by Einstein’s theory of general relativity, which says that massive objects warp space-time around them. When these objects accelerate, they make gravitational waves: ripples in the fabric of space-time that spread outward, like the wake left behind a boat. We have been pretty sure they exist for a while – their presence was inferred indirectly as far back as 1974 – but none had been observed directly. This historic signal was produced by a pair of black holes roughly 1.3 billion light years away, one 29 times the mass of the sun and the other 36 times, orbiting each other and then merging into a single black hole. LIGO’s dual detectors, based in Hanford, Washington, and Livingston, Louisiana, felt the tremors on 14 September 2015 at almost the same instant. Their sensors registered space-time expanding and contracting by as much as a thousandth of the size of a proton – a tiny distance, but 10 times larger than the smallest unit LIGO can measure.
Battling Doctor Shortage, Indian Hospitals Offer Intensive Care from Afar – (Reuters – February 8, 2016)
India has seven doctors for every 10,000 people, half the global average, according to the World Health Organization. Such a shortage of doctors means small facilities in India’s $55 billion private hospital market are ill equipped to provide critical care even as numbers seeking private healthcare rise because the public health system is in even worse shape. India’s largest healthcare chain, Apollo Hospitals Enterprise, and Fortis will this year expand their network of electronic intensive care units (eICUs), scaling up operations thanks to advances in communications technology. Apollo, which monitors 200 patients in six states from its only eICU in Hyderabad city, will open three new centres to track 1,000 more patients. The company is also in talks to extend the service to government hospitals. Fortis will start remote monitoring of intensive care patients in the Bangladeshi city of Khulna this week, its first such cross-border operation. The hospital chain tracks 350 patients from its New Delhi center but will start two more eICUs by mid-2017. With multiple computer screens inside these high-tech eICUs, doctors suggest treatment procedures after assessing medical history and real-time heart rate charts of patients fighting for their lives in distant facilities. “We save about 25 lives a month,” said Shamit Gupta, medical director at Fortis’ eICU unit. Hospitals charge between $10 and $30 a day to virtually monitor a patient from their eICUs, with revenues shared between hospitals and companies such as General Electric and Philips that have developed the tracking software. That comes on top of standard critical care costs of about $200 a day in a small city hospital. At that price, eICUs do little to address concerns of millions of India’s poor patients who often share beds or wait for days to gain admission to a public hospital. “This technology basically is not bridging the gap between the poor and the rich, but increasing access to specialized healthcare for those who can afford it,” Frost & Sullivan’s Singh said.
The Challenge of Saving Lives with ‘Big Data’ – (BBC News – February 7, 2016)
The UK Biobank is a project which started in 2006 and which has recruited half a million people aged 40 to 69 from across the country. They have all provided blood, urine and saliva samples for future analysis, and given detailed information about their bodies, diets and lifestyles – and everyone will be followed up regularly until the day they die. Recently, large groups of the participants have undergone cognitive function tests, others have gone through genotyping – determining differences in a person’s genetic make-up – and yet more have had images taken of their brains. The idea is that the data collected will help scientists discover why some people develop particular diseases and others do not. But that is not an easy task. As part of the soon-to-be-opened Big Data Institute in Oxford, more than 500 scientists will take up the challenge of handling the Biobank data and analyzing it. And big is definitely beautiful when it comes to this kind of data. Research based on small numbers of patients contains too many errors, particularly when it comes to analyzing the risk factors for diseases.”We crave information about large numbers of people over long periods,” says Martin Landray, professor of medicine and epidemiology at the University of Oxford. “That way, you get rid of the play of chance.” Around the world the race is on to use data to save lives. In the US, President Obama recently launched a Precision Medicine Initiative which plans to gather “big data” to develop more individualized care. In China, a study of 500,000 people is doing something similar which means it will be possible to compare and contrast the health of entire populations in the not too distant future.
Scientists Decode Brain Signals Nearly at Speed of Perception – (UW Newsbeat – January 28, 2016)
Using electrodes implanted in the temporal lobes of seven awake epilepsy patients, University of Washington scientists have decoded brain signals (representing images) at nearly the speed of perception for the first time — enabling the scientists to predict in real time which images of faces and houses the patients were viewing and when, and with better than 95% accuracy. “We were trying to understand, first, how the human brain perceives objects in the temporal lobe, and second, how one could use a computer to extract and predict what someone is seeing in real time,” explained University of Washington computational neuroscientist Rajesh Rao. The study involved patients receiving care at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. Each had been experiencing epileptic seizures not relieved by medication, so each had undergone surgery in which their brains’ temporal lobes were implanted (temporarily, for about a week) with electrodes to try to locate the seizures’ focal points. The scientists’ technique, he said, is a steppingstone for brain mapping, in that it could be used to identify in real time which locations of the brain are sensitive to particular types of information.
Scientists Grow Transplantable Artificial Axons in the Lab – (Futurism – January 26, 2016)
Most neurodegenerative diseases affect the brain by destroying neurons and damaging axon pathways. Symptoms of most neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and Huntington’s disease (such as loss of motor skills, memory loss, and loss of brain function) are a result of this damage. While scientists previously held that damaged axons and neurons were irrecoverable, further research has shown this to be false. Neuroplasticity describes the phenomenon in which the brain learns to recover from previous damages. Describing their invention as new “micro-tissue engineered neural networks” (micro-TENNs), Penn State senior author D. Kacy Cullen and his team have demonstrated that it can be used to replace broken axon pathways in the brains of rats. Micro-TENN takes advantage of this by providing ways of replenishing damaged and severed connections (axons). If micro-TENN is successful, it could mean that damages to the brain can be undone and that diseases like Parkinson could be halted if not mitigated. Penn State scientists have developed artificial axons that could be used to replace the broken axon pathways and neurons in the brains of individuals who have suffered head trauma. Axons, which connect neurons in the brain, are important for the body’s signal transmission and communication structure. However, these are just early results, and there have been no clinical trials on humans. As a result, it will be some time before this technique can be used.
Australian Scientists Will Soon Begin Trials for a Fully Implantable Bionic Eye – (Futurism – January 28, 2016)
Scientists from Australia are set to begin trials on The Phoenix99 bionic eye—a fully implantable system that marks a significant breakthrough in neural stimulation technology. The device, developed by engineers at the University of New South Wales (UNSW), has already been demonstrated successfully in pre-clinical work led by a team of elite surgical experts from Sydney, and it is expected to give patients better vision than any of the current restoration technologies. The scientists behind the study have been researching bionic eye technology as far back as 1997 in the hopes of helping people suffering from retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative condition that causes individuals to lose their eyesight beginning in their 30s and often leads to complete blindness in a span of 10 years. The plan is to implant the Phoenix99 to a dozen patients in the next two years. Surgery will take about two to three hours, and the only evidence of the bionic implant is the small disc behind the ear that transmits power and data to the device, which will then deliver electrical impulses to the eye. Users will also be wearing a pair of glasses outfitted with a small camera, which will help stimulation of nerve cells in the patients’ retinas and send signals to the brain’s visual cortex.
No More Needles at the Dentist – Just a Tiny Electric Current Instead – (Alpha Galileo – January 18, 2016)
If you’re scared of the dentist’s needles you’re not alone – but a new technique might allow the dentist to give you anesthetic using a tiny electric current instead of a needle. The researchers from the University of São Paulo, say their new findings could help improve dental procedures and bring relief to millions of people who are scared of needles. It would also save money and avoid contamination and infection, they say. With the new treatment, the researchers first prepared the anesthetic hydrogels with a polymer to help it stick to the lining of the mouth. They added two anesthetic drugs, prilocaine hydrochloride (PCL) and lidocaine hydrochloride (LCL). They tested the gel on the mouth lining of a pig, applying a tiny electric current to see if it made the anesthetic more effective. The anesthesia was fast-acting and long-lasting. The electric current made the prilocaine hydrochloride enter the body more effectively; the permeation of the anesthetic through the mouth lining increased 12-fold. The researchers say the technology has applications not only in dentistry anesthesia, but also in other areas such as cancer treatment.
New Cause for Lyme Disease Complicates Already Murky Diagnosis – (Scientific American – February 16, 2016)
Tick-borne Lyme disease in the U.S. has long been thought to be caused by a single microbe, a spiral-shaped bacterium called Borrelia burgdorferi. Last week this notion was challenged when a team led by scientists at the Mayo Clinic discovered that Lyme could be caused, albeit rarely, by a different bacterial species that may incite more serious symptoms ranging from vomiting to neurological issues. Scientists working in the contentious field of Lyme disagree, however, as to what this information means for public health and if these findings are truly the first of their kind. For years, they say, research has pointed to the notion that the spirochete that causes Lyme disease in the U.S. is more heterogeneous than many have acknowledged. In the new study, Mayo Clinic pathologist and laboratory doctor Bobbi Pritt and her colleagues tested more than 100,500 clinical specimens, such as blood, cerebrospinal fluid and tissue, collected from U.S. patients with suspected Lyme disease between 2003 and 2014. Using a special molecular biology technique called PCR that can identify genetic differences among bacterial strains, they found that six of the samples—collected from patients between 2012 and 2014 in Wisconsin, Minnesota and North Dakota—contained DNA suggestive of a new species. They isolated some of these live bacteria and analyzed parts of their genetic sequence, confirming that the microbe has, in fact, never been documented before. The researchers propose to name the new species Borrelia mayonii. Lyme-causing bacteria are complex for another reason: Even within a single species of Borrelia, diversity flourishes. Contrary to what has long been believed, B. burgdorferi can genetically recombine to create different strains that behave dissimilarly inside the human body. Some strains seem more likely to remain in the skin whereas others are more likely to invade the nervous system or heart. Some strains are also more commonly found in certain parts of the country.
18 Cities in Pennsylvania Reported Higher Levels of Lead Exposure Than Flint – (Vox – February 3, 2016)
The lead poisoning crisis in Flint, Michigan, was a surprise, an emergency that occurred after the city switched to a new, cheaper water source. However, the rate of lead exposure in Pennsylvania is incredibly alarming. Nearly 10% of the more than 140,000 kids tested had levels of 5 or more micrograms per deciliter of lead in the blood (5 µg/dL) — this is the threshold the government uses to identify children with dangerously elevated blood lead levels. One percent tested positive for blood lead levels greater than 10 µg/dL. Compare that to Flint, where state data shows the rate of lead exposure for 5 µg/dL from 2014 to 2015 as 3.21%. Other researchers have found that specific areas of the city have exposure rates as high as 6.3%. That’s alarming, but still a lower rate than 18 of the 20 cities in Pennsylvania. The lead exposure rates in Pennsylvania are largely linked to aging, deteriorating lead-based paint (chips and dust). In comparison, New York and Chicago are lead poisoning success stories — but some areas still fare better than others. Article includes numerous graphs, names of cities, and further details.
Long -Term Climate Change: What Is a Reasonable Sample Size? – (What’s Up With That – February 7, 2016)
Recent discussion about record weather events, such as the warmest year on record, is a totally misleading and scientifically useless exercise. This is especially true when restricted to the instrumental record that covers about 25% of the globe for at most 120 years. The age of the Earth is approximately 4.54 billion years, so the sample size is 0.000002643172%. Two major themes of the AGW (Anthropogenic Global Warming) claims are that temperature change is greater and more rapid than at any time in the past. This is false, as a cursory look at any longer record demonstrates. If it wasn’t, the actions taken to change the record are unnecessary. The Antarctic and Greenland ice core records both illustrate the extent of temperature change in short time periods. Figure 1 (above) shows a modified Antarctic ice core record. See also: 300 Scientists Accuse NOAA of Using Contaminated Data.
3D Mapping of Entire Buildings with Mobile Devices – (ETHZurich – January 13, 2016)
Computer scientists working in a group led by ETH Professor Marc Pollefeys have developed a piece of software that makes it very easy to create 3D models of entire buildings. Running on a new type of tablet computer, the program generates 3D maps in real time. To create a three-dimensional model of the ETH Zurich main building, a person pulls out his tablet computer. As he completes a leisurely walk around the structure, he keeps the device’s rear-facing camera pointing at the building’s façade. Bit by bit, an impressive 3D model of the edifice appears on the screen. It takes Schöps, a doctoral student at the Institute for Visual Computing, just 10 minutes to digitise a historical structure such as the main building. Development was carried out as part of Google’s Project Tango, in which the internet company is collaborating with 40 universities and companies. ETH Zurich is one of them.
Scientists Make a ‘True’ Neural Network Using Brain-like Chips – (Engaget – January 23, 2016)
Many people have built brain-like neural networks that can learn on their own, but they’re typically using plain old silicon to do it. Wouldn’t it be better if the chips themselves were brain-like? Italian and Russian researchers have created a neural network based on plastic memristors, or resistors that remember their previous electrical resistance. Since they effectively work like brain synapses, they’re ideal for creating “true” neural networks where signal transfers create long-lasting effects. And importantly, the choices of technology and materials allows them to be very small (as tiny as 10 nanometers, in theory) without resorting to exotic substances — you could design a neural network as compact as a regular chip without reinventing the wheel. The technology is still a long way off. A prototype is still relatively massive at 1mm wide, and it has only learned the most basic of tasks. However, the potential is huge. Besides creating neural networks that behave more organically, it’d enable machine learning systems and robots that need only a relatively tiny chip to do their digital thinking. If this technology pans out, it could form the basis of intelligent computers for years to come.
Paris Is Building a Floating Village in the Middle of a Forest – (Fast Company – February 11, 2016)
In a few years, a parking lot at the edge of Paris will turn into what architects call “a floating village in the middle of a forest”—a tree-covered building, topped with homes on the roof, that doubles as a pedestrian bridge over a nearby highway. “You go up, you go through the forest, and you go to your small home and garden,” says Manal Rachdi, founder of Paris-based Oxo Architects, who partnered with Sou Fujimoto on the design. “You really have a normal house on top of the building. The only difference from a normal house—you have a view of the Eiffel Tower.” And you’re surrounded by 1,000 trees, in the middle of the city. Sitting at the border of the 17th arrondissement, the building will span over the city’s ring road, a highway that separates the city center from the suburbs. “It physically creates a very big gap between Paris and the surroundings,” says Rachdi. “One of the challenges is to erase the gap created by this highway, and the first step is creating this park, with its trees. Everyone can go up and pass the highway through the park.” The new building will run on a combination of solar, wind, and geothermal energy. An “energy loop” connects all of the different parts of the building—so if a restaurant produces extra energy, for example, that energy can be used by an office or home above. The building, which was one of the winners of the recent “Réinventer Paris” competition, will begin construction in the next two years and be completed in 2021 or 2022.
France’s Road of the Future Is Paved With Solar Panels – (Take Part – February 8, 2016)
Known for its historic cobblestone paths and traffic-jammed streets, France forgoes traditional bricks and pavement for shiny solar panels with its new roadway project. French officials announced plans to construct a 1,000-kilometer-long (621-mile-long) solar roadway, with each kilometer capable of providing enough clean energy to power 5,000 homes. “The maximum effect of the program, if successful, could be to furnish 5 million people with electricity, or about 8% of the French population,” said Ségolène Royal, France’s minister of ecology and energy. The street—or “Wattway”—is a collaboration between the National Institute of Solar Energy and French civil engineering firm Colas. Tests for the road will begin in the spring. The entire project will take an estimated five years to complete, but builders won’t have to yank up existing roads in the meantime. The photovoltaic cells can simply be glued on top of existing streets and are durable enough to withstand heavy traffic and weather conditions. Despite the bumper-to-bumper traffic in Paris, the average French roadway is packed for only 10% of the day, according to Colas’ figures. That will leave the solar street with the majority of the day to gather energy from the sun. The panels collect solar power through a thin layer of polycrystalline silicon and convert it into electricity. Electrical connections can be integrated into existing traffic structures such as ducts and gutters.
Scientists Propose High-efficiency Wireless Power Transfer System – (PhysOrg – January 26, 2016)
Currently, commercial wireless power transfer is limited mainly to charging pads for phones: instead of plugging your phone directly into the wall, simply place it on top of a wireless charging pad. In the future, the same concept could be extended to much larger distances and higher transfer efficiencies, enabling entire rooms and even buildings to serve as wireless charging zones for phones, computers, and other electronic devices. Although wireless power transfer (WPT) was famously pioneered by Tesla in the early 20th century, it was not until 2007 that a team of scientists from MIT demonstrated the feasibility of WPT (or “WiTricity”), by powering a 60-watt light bulb from a distance of two meters at 45% transfer efficiency. Building on this work and others that have followed, a team of researchers led by Polina Kapitanova at ITMO University and Elizaveta Nenasheva at Giricond Research Institute, both in Saint Petersburg, Russia, have proposed a new WPT system. According to numerical simulations, their proposed system can maintain an 80% transfer efficiency across a distance of 20 centimeters, while experiencing only a very small decrease in the efficiency as the distance increases. Like almost all WPT proposals, the new proposal is based on resonance coupling. The researchers have demonstrated that they could decrease power loss—and therefore increase efficiency—in WPT systems in two ways. First, they replaced the traditional copper coils with “high-permittivity low-loss dielectric resonators,” which look like two ceramic spheres. These resonators have a high refractive index, meaning that an electromagnetic wave traveling through them is greatly slowed down. For WPT, this property translates to stronger magnetic resonances in the ceramic spheres, and stronger resonances lead to higher efficiencies. The second change the researchers made to decrease radiation loss was to use a higher-order resonant frequency mode than is normally used (they used the magnetic quadrupole mode instead of the magnetic dipole mode).
DeltaWing and DHX to Shrink Electric Vehicle Motors without Compromising Power – (GizMag – January 28, 2016)
Much of the bulk of high-torque electric motors, such as those typically used in automotive applications for electrified vehicles, is in the heat management systems engineered into the motor casings, and efforts to reduce this bulk typically result in loss of torque output in heavier usage. DHX claims its design reduces bulk by up to 75% without losing thermal management efficiency, thus retaining the motor’s expected output in heavy usage. A smaller, lighter motor reduces weight and volume requirements, which improves the efficiency of the vehicle, resulting in greater range. In an electric motor, the windings generate most of the heat produced during use. Air or liquid cooling is usually used to dissipate this heat into the motor’s frame and case through the stator, which, unlike the windings, is fixed to those elements. In the DHX design, a heat exchanger in the winding pulls heat away and to the casing more efficiently. DHX calls this a Direct-Winding Heat Exchanger (DWHX), and it is made up of tiny channels made to reduce thermal resistance by pulling heat away from the windings. This replaces heavy liquid cooling and less efficient air cooling. For its part, DeltaWing, which became known for its Nissan collaboration on the Ben Bowlby-designed racing car of the same name, will design vehicles to use the motor. Vehicles for development and production using the DHX motors will include two-, three-, and four-wheeled designs ranging from scooters to urban vehicles to highway-ready EVs and delivery vehicles. The motors will be designed for use in both battery electric and hybrid-electric vehicles.
SECURITY AND THE FUTURE OF WARFARE
How Corruption Cripples America’s Military – (Washington’s Blog – February 2, 2016)
America’s military budget is roughly 7.2 times that of Russia ($610 billion compared to $84.5 billion), but even Western news-accounts are saying that the weaponry produced in Russia is superior overall to the weaponry produced in the United States. Compare the top-of-the-line fighter jets of the two countries: that’s the F-35 fighter-jet produced by the U.S. corporation Lockheed Martin, versus the Su-35 fighter jet produced by the Russian government (its wholly owned Sukhoi Company). The F-35 costs around $100 million per plane. The Su-35 costs around $65 million per plane. The weaponry-expert David Majumdar headlined on 15 September 2015, “America’s F-35 Stealth Fighter vs. Russia’s Su-35: Who Wins?” He concluded: “Basically, an F-35 pilot should avoid a close in fight at all costs. It is highly unlikely that a U.S. Joint Force Air Component Commander (JFACC) would assign an air superiority mission to an F-35 unit if alternatives were available. But given the tiny fleet of [F-22] Raptors and dwindling F-15C fleet, it is possible that the JFACC could be forced to use the F-35 as an air superiority asset.” In other words: the U.S. had stopped production of the better planes, the F-22 and the F-15C, which might stand a chance against the Su-35. The U.S. stopped production of those planes in order to replace them with the inferior and far costlier (and more profitable) F-35. Or this: an incident on 12 April, 2014 in which the USS Donald Cook Aegis Class destroyer, loaded with missiles, entered the Black Sea, to threaten Russia, and a Russian Su-24 flew overhead, carrying a device that could turn off all electrical systems. As the Russian jet approached the US vessel, the electronic device disabled all radars, control circuits, systems, information transmission, etc. on board the US destroyer. In other words, the all-powerful Aegis system, now hooked up — or about to be — with the defense systems installed on NATO’s most modern ships was shut down, as turning off the TV set with the remote control. The Russian Su-24 then simulated a missile attack against the USS Donald Cook, which was left literally deaf and blind. As if carrying out a training exercise, the Russian aircraft — unarmed — repeated the same maneuver 12 times before flying away. (Editor’s note: Feel free to ignore the agenda of this article, but check out the descriptions given by U.S. military experts of the Russian military capability.)
Watch DARPA’s New Turbo Mini-drone Fly 45 mph in Warehouse Testing – (Washington Post – February 13, 2016)
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) recently tested quad-copters loaded with sensors and cameras at an old hangar set up as a warehouse at Otis Air National Guard Base in Massachusetts. The effort marked a first flight test for DARPA’s Fast Lightweight Autonomy program, which is probing how to develop algorithms that could reduce the amount of human intervention needed to fly small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) through a congested urban environment. The technology could be especially useful in addressing what the military sees as a shortfall. While small drones are now commercially available, it is difficult to navigate them through buildings, wreckage and other potentially dangerous environments without entering. Better drones might allow them to find survivors after a bombing, look for booby traps or test the air quality before entering dangerous areas. As part of the testing, DARPA got the drones up to 20 meters per second, or about 45 mph. It also operated them without “teleoperation” — meaning the use of remote controls. The agency said it used a DJI Flame Wheel 450 airframe — a common commercially available drone — with 12-inch propellers and loaded it with not only cameras, but sonar and lidar sensors that use sound and light respectively to determine the location of surrounding objects. Article includes video clip of the drone in action.
TRENDS OF GOVERNANCE
Chart Shows How U.S. Defense Spending Dwarfs the Rest of the World – (Washington Post – February 9, 2016)
The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) has released its Military Balance 2016 report, which seeks to examine closely the changing nature of military power. On a grand scale, the report showed – yet again – that U.S. military spending easily dwarfed the rest of the world. With a defense budget of around $597 billion, it was almost as much as the next 14 countries put together and far larger than the rest of the world. China, a rising military power and the world’s most populous country, is perhaps the only country that can hold a candle to America’s military budget. However, its own budget of $145.8 billion is less than a third of the U.S. budget. But there is a catch. New technologies mean that the West in general and the United States in particular are losing their technological edge, the report found. Countries such as Russia and China have been showcasing new systems and technological advances that show the balance of power may be shifting. The 2016 Military Balance report examines closely, for example, Russia’s modernization of its armored fighting vehicles and China’s new ballistic missile systems, as well as the less traditional problem of deterrence in cyberspace. Moreover, the overall balance of power in military spending appears to be shifting. Last year, the IISS Military Balance noted the rise of the Asian powers, a trend still evident in the 2016 report. This year, the report makes an additional observation: the Persian Gulf region may well see its own shifting balance of power, driven in part by the lifting of sanctions on Iran, low oil prices and continued conflict in nearby states. That region already has one of the biggest defense budgets, according to IISS. Saudi Arabia’ s $81.9 billion budget is the third-largest found in the report and among the largest budgets as a percentage of GDP in the entire world.
Former Top Obama Official Just Went Rogue and Dropped Bombshell about Hillary – (Before It’s News – Thursday, February 11, 2016)
President Obama’s former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn (Ret.), believes that Hillary Clinton should be disqualified from being president in light of her alleged gross mishandling of classified material. The former DIA chief expressed special concern that highly classified Special Access Program (SAP) material, which is to be viewed on a “Need to know” basis, was transferred to her private, non-secured server. This material is deemed even more sensitive than Top Secret. “Placement of SAP-classified information on a non-secure server was the ‘single, most dangerous security violation that can ever happen to the United States,” said Col. James Waurishuk, former deputy director of intelligence for the U.S. Central Command. “In order for Mrs. Clinton to get Top Secret/Special Access Programs onto her private server, numerous, redundant safeguards were deliberately bypassed, probably by unauthorized personnel who were given access to these documents. It was a deliberate, intentional act. It just could not happen by accident,” he added. Waurishuk also stated that having SAP documents on an unsecured server, “can result in the death of people in the field.” “What was going through this woman’s mind as she is reading this information on her own unclassified system,” Flynn wondered. “Did she think that nobody, the Russians or the Chinese, was looking at it? Did she think this was the right thing to do?”
GLOBAL RELATIONS/FOREIGN AFFAIRS
The Death of the Most Generous Nation on Earth – (Foreign Policy – February 10, 2016)
Little Sweden has taken in far more refugees per capita than any country in Europe. But in doing so, it’s tearing itself apart. When the refugee crisis began last summer, about 1,500 people were coming to Sweden every week seeking asylum. By August, the number had doubled. In September, it doubled again. In October, it hit 10,000 a week, and stayed there even as the weather grew colder. A nation of 9.5 million, Sweden expected to take as many as 190,000 refugees, or 2% of the population — double the per capita figure projected by Germany, which has taken the lead in absorbing the vast tide of people fleeing the wars in Syria, Iraq, and elsewhere. A few weeks earlier, Sweden’s foreign minister, Margot Wallstrom, had declared that if the rest of Europe continued to turn its back on the migrants, “in the long run our system will collapse.” The collapse came faster than she had imagined. During World War II, Sweden took in the Jews of Denmark, saving much of the population. In recent years the Swedes have taken in Iranians fleeing from the Shah, Chileans fleeing from Gen. Augusto Pinochet, and Eritreans fleeing forced conscription. Accepting refugees is part of what it means to be Swedish. Yet what Margot Wallstrom meant, and what turned out to be true, was that Germany, Sweden, Austria, and a few others could not absorb the massive flow on their own. The refugee crisis could, with immense effort and courage, have been a collective triumph for Europe. Instead, it has become a collective failure. This is the story of the exorbitant, and ultimately intolerable, cost that Sweden has paid for its unshared idealism. See also: Sexism and Islam: ‘Where I’m From, This is Handled By Men,’ an article that looks at the place where cultural sensitivity and gender sensitivity can conflict in very difficult ways.
LIFE STYLE/SOCIAL TRENDS AND VALUES
Reborn Maine Milling City Offers Lessons Amid Refugee Crisis – (Washington Post – February 8, 2016)
The arrival of thousands of Somali refugees in this former mill city in the nation’s whitest state sparked a backlash at first, complete with a rally of white supremacists and a pig’s head rolled into the local mosque. Fifteen years later, the Somali newcomers are solid members of the community, as evidenced by its proliferation of shops, restaurants and mosques — and a championship-winning high school soccer team featuring players from Somalia and other African countries. Shukri Abasheikh, owner of Mogadishu Store, a general store that caters to the African community, said she and her fellow newcomers have won respect from residents through hard work. At first, Lewiston residents didn’t know what to make of these newcomers who spoke no English, providing a challenge for schools. Many knew little of Somalia beyond news coverage of a soldier from a nearby town who was killed in a Somali firefight that became the basis for the movie “Black Hawk Down.” In Lewiston, white residents now see the black newcomers want the same things they do — a safe place to raise a family, good schools, freedom and jobs, said Abdi Said, a refugee who was originally put in San Jose, California, before he moved to Lewiston. “We are working hard, and we’re going to school and everything — like regular American people,” said Said, who hopes to buy a home for his family. “They see that we are not different.” Longtime residents have largely accepted the immigrants, said Jimmy Simones, whose grandfather was a Greek immigrant who opened Simones’ Hot Dog Stand, an eatery that’s now a regular stop for politicians and city leaders.
In a Tiny House Village, Portland’s Homeless Find Dignity – (Yes! – January 28, 2016)
Called an “intentional community” by its members and a homeless encampment by outsiders, Dignity Village is a step toward curbing Portland’s skyrocketing homeless population. Located in northeast Portland, Dignity Village is a self-governed gated community, which currently serves 60 people on any given night—the city limits the number—and provides shelter in the form of tiny houses built mainly from donated and recycled materials. The village emerged in the winter of 2000 as a tent city called Camp Dignity. Stationed in downtown Portland, it served as an act of protest against Portland’s then-existing ban on homeless encampments. But it moved. After more than a year of public controversy, the city sanctioned a permanent campsite on Sunderland Yard, city-owned land six miles west of the Portland International Airport. Now officially a nonprofit, Dignity Village is governed by a democratically elected council of nine residents, who are responsible for day-to-day decisions; all residents can vote on big decisions, like whether to remove a resident or enter into contracts with service providers, in town-hall-style meetings. On a typical night, it provides food, housing, bathrooms, and a mailing address for nearly 60 adults, who pay $35 a month in rent and would otherwise be taking their chances alone sleeping on park benches or city streets. Seattle, which in November declared a state of emergency to tackle its own homeless crisis, recently moved to expand micro-housing communities for the chronically homeless; Dignity Village was a huge influence on the city’s decision. Elsewhere, cities are trying out the model of Dignity Village. In Eugene, Oregon, Opportunity Village has lifted the concept wholesale.
How ‘Textual Chemistry’ Is Changing Dating – (Time – February 13, 2016)
The complex emotional interactions between two people over text message can make or break a relationship. My friend and I had just seen a play and, like everyone else in the theater, I took out my phone as the curtain came down. Waiting for me were five lengthy text messages from a guy I had been seeing for two months. “Oh my God, he’s so desperate,” my friend said when she saw my screen. “This is totally normal for us,” I explained. “See?” I scrolled up to show her my seven unanswered text messages before, his three blocks of text before that and so on. My friend, who lived strictly by the rule that you should not double text for fear of looking too “thirsty,” as the kids call it, was aghast. “It’s kind of wonderful,” I said. My now-boyfriend has been teased for “texting like a girl,” but it was immediately one of my favorite things about him. I am an effusive texter, and in past relationships I would get frustrated when my multi-text theses would be answered with “yeah” or “sure.” I needed someone who was just as willing to give themselves carpal tunnel as I was. I’d heard similar complaints from friends: potential dates who texted too much, too little; used too many emojis, didn’t seem to understand emojis at all; were too serious, used to many “lols” when they clearly were not laughing out loud. Each text was carefully analyzed for hidden meaning. It’s no wonder, then, that text message miscommunications were a daily source of stress and anxiety. It was yet another box to check as we sought a significant other: textual chemistry.
CONTACT AND THE EXPLORATION OF SPACE
The Dark Energy Enigma: The Entire Universe is Being Pushed by an Unknown Force No One Can Locate – (Daily Galaxy – January 30, 2016)
“Dark energy is incredibly strange, but actually it makes sense to me that it went unnoticed,” said Noble Prize winning physicist Adam Riess in an interview. “I have absolutely no clue what dark energy is. Dark energy appears strong enough to push the entire universe – yet its source is unknown, its location is unknown and its physics are highly speculative.” Almost all physicists agree that if the amount of dark energy in the universe were slightly different, life could never have emerged. The amount of dark energy is astoundingly small compared to the theoretically large range it could be (it has been measured to be about one-hundred-millionth of an erg per cubic centimeter). We happen to live in a universe with a small dark energy value, allowing for expansion rather than contraction, and for the emergence of life. Physicists have found that for the last 7 billion years or so galactic expansion has been accelerating. This would be possible only if something is pushing the galaxies, adding energy to them. Scientists are calling this something “dark energy,” a force that is real but eludes detection. Scientists have established that the universe is expanding at a rate 20% faster than it was 5 billion years ago. In 1929, Edwin Hubble first demonstrated that the universe was expanding by showing that galaxies outside the Milky Way, in which earth’s solar system resides, were moving away from each other. Only about 5% of the universe is composed of planets, stars and gaseous structures, with the remaining 95% comprising dark matter and dark energy.
NASA Has Trialled an Engine That Would Reach Mars in 10 Weeks – (Science Alert – May 1, 2015)
And may have inadvertently created a warp drive in the process. NASA scientists have reported that they’ve successfully tested an engine called the electromagnetic propulsion drive, or the EM Drive, in a vacuum that replicates space. The EM Drive experimental system could take humans to Mars in just 70 days without the need for rocket fuel, and it’s no exaggeration to say that this could change everything. These results haven’t been replicated or verified by peer review, so there’s a chance there’s been some kind of error. But so far, despite a thorough attempt to poke holes in the results, the engine seems to hold up. The engine is controversial because it seems to violate one of the fundamental concepts of physics – the conservation of momentum, which states that for something to be propelled forward, it needs some kind of propellant to be pushed out in the opposite direction. But the EM Drive doesn’t require any propellant in order to create thrust, it simply relies on electromagnetic waves.
Why the International Postal Network Holds the Key to Global Well-Being – (Technology Review – February, 2016)
In 2012, the United Nations agreed on a series of goals to transform the world by 2030. These include eradicating poverty, ending hunger, and providing health care and education for all people. These so-called sustainable development goals are ambitious and challenging; achieving them will be hard. One of the primary challenges is measuring progress. That requires some objective method of assessing poverty, health, and well-being. In the developed world, this is done on a regular basis with tools such as economic surveys, population censuses, and so on. In recent years, researchers have begun to study how certain kinds of information flow through networks in countries around the word and how this might be a proxy for real-world conditions. For example, the way people purchase airtime for their mobile phones is powerful proxy for their socioeconomic status. So an interesting question is whether this kind of study can largely replace the traditional methods of determining the socioeconomic status of a nation and of consequently measuring progress toward the U.N.’s goals. Today we get an answer of sorts thanks to the work of Desislava Hristova at the University of Cambridge in the U.K. and a few pals, who have investigated how networks of digital and physical flows can provide insight into the state of nations. The answer, they say, is that these networks provide surprisingly detailed insight that is relatively cheap to garner.
NEW TOOLS/NEW PROCESSES
Novel 4D Printing Method Blossoms from Botanical Inspiration – (Harvard Univ. – January 25, 2016)
A team of scientists at Harvard University has evolved their microscale 3D printing technology to the fourth dimension, time. Inspired by natural structures like plants, which respond and change their form over time according to environmental stimuli, the team has unveiled 4D-printed hydrogel composite structures that change shape upon immersion in water. In nature, flowers and plants have tissue compositions and microstructures that result in dynamic morphologies that change according to their environments. Mimicking the variety of shape changes undergone by plant organs such as tendrils, leaves, and flowers in response to environmental stimuli like humidity and/or temperature, the 4D-printed hydrogel composites developed by Lewis and her team are programmed to contain precise, localized swelling behaviors. Importantly, the hydrogel composites contain cellulose fibrils that are derived from wood and are similar to the microstructures that enable shape changes in plants. When immersed in water, the hydrogel-cellulose fibril ink undergoes differential swelling behavior along and orthogonal to the printing path. Combined with a proprietary mathematical model developed by the team that predicts how a 4D object must be printed to achieve prescribed transformable shapes, the new method opens up many potential applications for 4D printing technology including smart textiles, soft electronics, biomedical devices, and tissue engineering.
Spam Trail Leads to China’s Three Largest Banks – (Technology Review – January 29, 2016)
ake luxury goods stand alongside pharmaceuticals as one of the primary drivers of spam. Damon McCoy, an assistant professor of computer science at New York University, is mapping out and attacking the economic system behind it. And he says the trail leads to the doors of China’s three largest banks. McCoy’s project is a collaboration with Florida attorney Stephen Gaffigan and four of the world’s largest luxury goods brands—which decline to be named. The Bank of China, the Bank of Communications, and Agricultural Bank of China handled 97% of 300 fake goods purchases made during McCoy’s project, which has been running for nearly 18 months. All three are owned by the Chinese government. McCoy initially found that the Korea Exchange Bank handled a significant fraction of the luxury goods purchases. But after his work triggered complaints from the credit-card network Visa, the bank stopped handling the transactions for the perpetrators. Despite being subject to similar complaints—and likely fines—the Chinese banks have not. McCoy’s campaign is inspired by a landmark 2011 study he worked on regarding the economics of spam. It found that 95 percent of the income generated by spam passed through just three banks in Azerbaijan, Denmark, and Nevis in the West Indies. The effort against the fake goods trade is aimed at identifying similar economic bottlenecks and choking them off.
All of the World’s Money and Markets in One Visualization – (Visual Capitalist – December 17, 2015)
How much money exists in the world? There are multiple answers to this question, and the amount of money that exists changes depending on how we define it. The more abstract definition of money we use, the higher the number is. In this data visualization of the world’s total money supply, we wanted to not only compare the different definitions of money, but to also show powerful context for this information. That’s why we’ve also added in recognizable benchmarks such as the wealth of the richest people in the world, the market capitalizations of the largest publicly-traded companies, the value of all stock markets, and the total of all global debt. The end result is a hierarchy of information that ranges from some of the smallest markets (Bitcoin = $5 billion, Silver above-ground stock = $14 billion) to the world’s largest markets (Derivatives on a notional contract basis = somewhere in the range of $630 trillion to $1.2 quadrillion). In between those benchmarks is the total of the world’s money, depending on how it is defined. This includes the global supply of all coinage and banknotes ($5 trillion), the above-ground gold supply ($7.8 trillion), the narrow money supply ($28.6 trillion), and the broad money supply ($80.9 trillion). All figures are in the equivalent of US dollars. (Editor’s note: The graphic display showing the relative size of each measure of “money” is well done.)
American Exceptionalism in a Time of American Malaise – (BBC News – February 2, 2016)
The problem, globally, is that American exceptionalism has increasingly come to have negative connotations. Consider the face that America has recently presented to the rest of the world. Flint, Michigan, a city poisoned by its drinking water, is a story one would ordinarily expect to cover in the developing world in a failed state. The Netflix global sensation Making a Murderer has put the US criminal justice system in the dock. The Oregon militia stand-off has echoes of the lawless Wild West. Before the monster blizzard closed much of the north-eastern US, Washington was brought to a standstill by an inch of snow. Days later, the federal government remained shut down. The Big Short, a movie about the collapse of the subprime mortgage market and the avarice of the major US investment banks, is a reminder of the excesses of Wall Street, and the fact just one person was prosecuted following the 2008 financial collapse. Even Hollywood’s great shop window, the Academy Awards, has been mired in controversy over its “whites-only” nominations. American exceptionalism itself has something of a Sunset Boulevard feel to it, a black comedy where a faded silent movie star believes she is still the most luminous presence on the screen. For these are times when “Only in America” is increasingly used as a term of derision, and “American exceptionalism” sounds like an empty boast. (Editor’s note: this article by a BBC correspondent offers a thoughtful outsider’s view of America.)
Ann Jones, War Wounds – (Tom Dispatch – February 14, 2016)
TD brings back a 2013 excerpt from Ann Jones’s remarkable book, They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return From America’s Wars — The Untold Story, including an introduction by Nick Turse that offers a unique look at Jones herself. For all the worship of our “wounded warriors” in these years, no major media outfit thought it worthwhile to send someone to do what Jones did: follow America’s war-wounded off the Afghan battlefields into trauma units in that country, onto planes to a U.S. hospital in Germany, then on to Walter Reed in the U.S., and finally back to their homes. The book she produced is a must-read odyssey. In these years, there has not been another such up-close-and-personal account of the true price we’ve paid for the permanent war the Bush administration launched in September 2001 and that still shows no sign of ending. (Editor’s note: We recommend that you scroll down to the major heading, A Trail of Tears: How Veterans Return From America’s Wars, and begin reading there. After that, read the introduction with a very nice profile of Ann Jones if you’re inclined.)
FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH – articles off the beaten track which may – or may not – have predictive value.
Italian Cheese Firm Sells Parmesan-backed Bond – (CNBC – February 3, 2016)
An Italian dairy cooperative has sold bonds backed by Parmesan cheese, a rare example of one of the country’s plethora of small firms raising funding on capital markets. Three years of recession have choked bank lending as bad loans piled up on their balance sheets during the recession, making it harder for smaller, more vulnerable companies to get funding. Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s government is trying to encourage firms to raise money elsewhere and take advantage of a tentative economic recovery. Cheese-maker 4 Madonne Caseificio dell’Emilia has done just that, raising 6 million euros ($6.55 million) in mini-bonds guaranteed by wheels of Parmesan. 4 Madonne’s bonds will pay a fixed yield of 5% each year until they mature in January 2022.
JUST FOR FUN
Le Petit Chef – (YouTube – May 18, 2015)
A purported French restaurant called “Le Petit Chef” demonstrates an original way to entertain guests while they wait for their meal – using a projector on the ceiling, and the animation on the table. This video clip is whimsical, charming, and inventive. It’s also an ad for Skullmapping, a boutique animation studio based in Belgium.
A FINAL QUOTE
To predict the future, we need logic; but we also need faith and imagination, which can sometimes defy logic itself. – Arthur C Clarke
A special thanks to: A special thanks to: Bernard Calil, Chas Freeman, Ursula Freer, Diane Petersen, Gary Sycalik, Steve Ujvarosy and all of you who have sent us interesting links in the past. If you see something we should know about, do send it along – thanks. [email protected]
Edited by John L. Petersen